Two Canadiens to watch Tuesday night (Pouliot, Kostitsyn)

February 28, 2010

Canadiens LW Andrei Kostitsyn (knee) is slated to return to the lineup for Tuesday night's tilt at Boston. Get him in your fantasy lineup, too.

A tip of the fantasy cap to ESPN.com’s Sean Allen, whose latest Forecaster column contains a note about two Montreal Canadiens who’ve been favorites of the Genius all season: LW Andre Kostitsyn (knee) and RW Benoit Pouliot (shoulder).

Both players are scheduled to return to the lineup for Tuesday night’s 7:00 pm game at the Boston Bruins.

Both players were on fire before injuries derailed their prolific campaigns. True, their scoring touch might not return in their first few games back, as Allen points out. But as faithful readers of the Genius know, we never hesitate to dump our No. 4 defenseman for a speculative add at forward.

In case you’ve forgotten your NHL box scores during the Olympic fortnight, let us remind you:

Pouliot (3.3 percent owned in ESPN, 13 percent in Yahoo!) had tallied five goals and two assists in the eight games prior to his Feb. 5 injury.

Kostitsyn (64.3 percent owned in ESPN, 15 percent in Yahoo!) had logged eight goals and three assists in the 11 games prior to his Jan. 3 injury.

Forced to pick one of the two returning Habs, I’d go with AK-46 (above), who has the pedigree (10th overall pick in 2003) and simply looks like the more lethal scorer to the naked eye.

The only thing in Pouliot’s favor is his positional scarcity as a RW. Still, both Habs are worth keeping tabs on. And both are likely available in your league, especially if your fellow owners have gone to sleep during the Olympics.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons


With Cammalleri out, who scores?

February 5, 2010

With Habs LW Michael Cammalleri (pictured here in the garb of his former team) out for six weeks, who will score for the Canadiens?

Habs LW Michael Cammalleri (right MCL) is out for at least six weeks.

The Canadiens have now played twice in his absence, winning 3-2 vs. Vancouver on Tuesday and 3-2 (shootout) at Boston on Thursday.

The injury leaves C Tomas Plekanec without his formerly formidable pair of wings — Cammalleri (26 goals, 22 assists, +10, 15 PPP, 191 shots in 56 games) and RW Andrei Kostitsyn (lower body), who has been out of action since New Year’s Eve with no timetable for returning.

Plekanec is now skating between LW Sergei Kostitsyn and RW Benoit Pouliot. It was this line that picked up the scoring slack in the 3-2 win vs. Vancouver. Kostitsyn staked the Habs to a 1-0 lead on a pass from Pouliot. Plekanec scored the eventual game winner in the third period, assisted by Pouliot and Kostitsyn.

The other Montreal goal came from the third line in the first period, with C Maxim Lapierre capitalizing on a feed from RW Mathieu Darche. All three Habs goals came at even strength.

On its surface, the box score of this game was yet another signal for fantasy owners to grab Pouliot. Still only owned in 19 percent of Yahoo! and 11.7 percent of ESPN leagues, Pouliot was on fire long before the Cammalleri injury. He has tallied 10 goals and three assists in his last 16 games.

As for Kostitsyn, it was a good game, but it seemed like a fluke since he’d gone scoreless in his previous seven contests. Plekanec was not really part of the fantasy conversation, since he is an assists machine who was already a nearly universally owned player (74 percent Yahoo!, 84.7 ESPN).

Then came Thursday’s 3-2 shootout win in Boston. Down 2-0 in the second, the Habs halved the lead on a power play goal from ex-Bruin Glen Metropolit. C Scott Gomez and D Andre Markov recorded the assists. Less than one minute later, the Habs tied it when D Roman Hamrlik scored, assisted by Gomez and Kostitsyn.

In fantasy terms, this game hardly clarified anything. Markov was already a universally owned defenseman. Hamrlik and Gomez have been borderline roster-worthy for several seasons. Metropolit is a classic “good in real life, not so much in fantasy” grinder. But then there was that point from Kostitsyn, making us wonder: Is this 22-year-old with the gifted brother worthy of our attention, now that he’s skating with Plekanec?

Our answer: Yes, but the better fantasy play is Pouliot, who is still out there in the vast majority of free agent pools.

The Canadiens next play Saturday afternoon (2pm) at Pittsburgh, and we’ll be watching to determine if the Kostitsyn-Plekanic-Pouliot line continues to produce.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons


The best trade in fantasy hockey history

January 21, 2010

With Canadiens LW Andrei Kostitsyn, above, out until Mar. 2, teammate Benoit Pouliot (owned in fewer than 7 percent of Yahoo! and ESPN leagues) has picked up the slack.

Sure, the game of the night is Washington’s visit to Pittsburgh. A clash of Eastern Conference heavyweights and all that.

But in fantasy land, the teams we’re watching are Montreal (tied for ninth in the conference as of Thursday) and Minnesota (tied for 12th in the Western Conference).

On Jan. 23, we’ll have reached the two-month anniversary of a landmark trade between these teams.

Incredibly, the two players swapped for each other — Minnesota RW/LW Guillaume Latendresse (14 percent owned in ESPN, 31 percent in Yahoo!) and Montreal LW Benoit Pouliot (1.1 percent ESPN, 6 percent Yahoo!) — remain radically underowned.

Why this is, I cannot fathom.

In his 25 games with the Wild, Latendresse, 22, has totaled 13 goals and six assists with a +6, not to mention 63 shots on goal. He next plays tonight vs. Detroit.

In his 13 games with the Canadiens, Pouliot, 23, has totaled eight goals and one assist with a +2, not to mention 15 penalty minutes and 37 shots on goal. He next plays Friday night at New Jersey. And he has more than picked up the scoring slack for wounded teammate LW Andrei Kostitsyn (knee).

Which of the two youngsters is more valuable? It depends on your needs. Pouliot, the fourth overall pick in 2005, stands 6-foot-4 and brings penalty minutes to the table. Latendresse, a second-round pick in 2005, is not a banger, but he is eligible at RW.

Bottom line: both players should be more highly owned, especially when you consider their last eight games. For Latendresse, the totals are seven goals and five assists. For Pouliot, the totals are six goals and one assist — and those 15 PIMs.

Here at The Genius, we ask this question all the time but we must ask again: Would you rather retain your No. 4 defenseman, or take a stab at greatness?

Grab Latendresse and/or Pouliot now, before the rest of your league awakens.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons


Is Andrei Kostitsyn (shall we call him AK-46) worth a pickup?

December 15, 2009

Canadiens LW AK-46 has an upside worth adding, but don't cry if you've missed out on him.

When Yahoo!’s Scott Pianowski suggests grabbing a fantasy hockey player, I pay attention. Pianowski was first on the bandwagon for Penguins D Alex Goligoski (last season) and Devils RW Niclas Bergfors (this year).

So when I read his endorsement of Canadiens LW Andre Kostitsyn, I overcame my hesitations and made the add. But my hesitations remain. We’ll address them below.

Meanwhile, other fantasy owners are heeding Piano’s advice. Kostitsyn, 24, is still only 18-percent owned in Yahoo! leagues, but that is up from 16 percent at the time of Piano’s post. (In ESPN formats, it’s too late: AK-46 is owned in 67.9 percent.)

So: What’s not to like about a former first-round pick (10th overall, 2003) with six goals in his last five contests, including back-to-back two-goal games?

Here’s a short list:

1. Track record. In 2007, AK-46 notched 53 points in 78 games. In 2008, he tallied 41 points in 74 games. In neither season did he fire more than 170 shots on goal. In neither season did he surpass 16 power play points.

2. This season. Yes, he’s on fire, but AK’s totals remain a ho-hum 19 points in 31 matches. Do you want to take games away from LW studs like James Neal or Dustin Penner for that sort of pedestrian productivity?

3. Position. In fantasy hockey, quality left wings are almost as abundant as quality centers. As of this moment, AK-46 is ranked 43rd among all LW in the Yahoo! game. Even a reliable player like Neal (14 goals, 13 assists, 31 PIMs) only ranks 12th among LW in Yahoo! formats.

Having typed all this, why would I still bother picking up AK-46? Mainly because AK’s hot streak suggests he may be on the verge of making a leap and becoming a 35-goal scorer.

Likely? No. But the possibility is easily worth the risk of dropping a No. 4 defenseman. You can always trade a 35-goal scorer — even at LW — to address a need on your fantasy team. You can never find a trading partner for a No. 4 defenseman.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons